Children attack senior scholars


AGGRESSIVE and threatening behaviour by out-of-control children is upsetting members of University of the Third Age at Currawong Community Centre in Mornington.

The boys – aged 10 to 12 – reportedly bang on doors and windows while U3A members are inside attending classes, ride their bikes threateningly at elderly members, turn off the power, and harass members walking to their cars.

U3A Mornington president Tom Jeavons took photographs of damage to trees at the rear of the centre he said was caused by the boys.

“One of our members saw two boys aged 10 or 11 behind the portable building smoking and attempting to set fire to branches near the building,” he said.

“The incidents are part of a long series of vandalism at Currawong. We are being threatened and do not feel safe here. This is a serious, ongoing problem.”

U3A members say they have repeatedly contacted Mornington police but, so far, no trouble-makers have been intercepted. “On Friday 15 May I reported [to police] that three to five upper primary aged boys were showing aggressive and threatening behaviour towards us,” Dr Jeavons said in an email to members.

“[They] said they had received two other reports and that [they] had a good idea of the identity of the boys. The following week, further problems occurred but the promised police presence did not occur.”

U3A member Jan Oliver confirmed there was “no sign of police” during the raids even though she rang 000. “[This was at] at 4.30pm when the gang of boys was constantly banging on the doors, and twice rushing in and turning the power off at the switchboard. I was using the digital projector, which means that, if the globe blows, it is $100 to replace it.

“Two of our larger men went out the glass doors and stood watching the kids but the leaders on their bikes were not there.”

Ms Oliver said it seemed the 000 operator “thought the matter was not serious because no one had been injured and no one appeared to be drunk or on ice”.

“I couldn’t get across the idea that we were a group of seniors and felt threatened,” she said.

“I said we had an arrangement with Mornington police to come at 5pm and that we were to call them if we experienced any aggression. No reaction, though. The boys all ran away and were not seen by the time I left.

“However, those [of us] escorting others to cars certainly were unnerved by all this, especially as we have not had such trouble directly affecting us. Damage to the buildings and grounds is one thing, but being threatened by kids is quite another.”

Bridge class member Gaye Morrison said the boys were causing problems in the car park as her group left the building. “Last week they were banging on the doors while we were inside and riding bikes dangerously towards us as though they were going to hit us when we walked to our cars.”

“Today they were putting pine fence posts and large roadside signs in the driveway so that we had to get out of our cars to move them before we could drive out and, then, as soon as one car was out, they dragged the posts and signs back so that the next car would have to stop and move them.

“I feel threatened and concerned for my safety and the safety of others as it is quite dark when we leave.”

Acting Senior Sergeant Chris Stock of Mornington police said vandalism and harassment were “ongoing issues” at the centre.

“We brief members to do patrols there and concentrate our efforts on it,” he said.

The shire’s manager of infrastructure maintenance Niall McDonagh said vandalism and damage at Currawong Community Centre had been an ongoing concern for a number of years.

“The shire has installed security surveillance cameras to assist police in identifying perpetrators. We encourage anyone noticing suspicious behaviour around the centre to contact the local police.”

First published in the Mornington News – 7 July 2015


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